Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Roanoke by Margaret Lawrence

Roanoke by Margaret Lawrence (Bantam $26 Signed).

With the same dark, dramatic style in which she wrote her post-Revolutionary War mysteries, Lawrence portrays the court of Elizabeth I about 1585, the fact that the queen, turned 50, could no longer play the marriage/heir game to fend off Catholic Europe, the threat of the Spanish Armada, the rivalries amongst her aging ministers and the jockeying of the new, among them Walter Ralegh. And the vision of Roanoke, a colony on the shore of NorthAmerica from which they might prey upon the flow of treasure to England's enemies. Broke, the queen refuses to fund an expedition, but private investment (does all this public/private sector investment debate sound familiar?) will. Lawrence then imagines what might have happened through two agents (many sets of agents worked the kingdom, some for Walsingham, some for Burghley, some for Elizabeth) with diverse voices, skills, and objectives. It's a kind of magical novel, really, allowing in the unknown, populated with brave hearts and blackguards. Lawrence earlier was nominated for the Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards for her work, most notably Hearts and Bones.

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